Japanese Carventure Special: Classic Heaven! Sakura Farm Old Car Festival Pt 1

My first Japanese car event, the Sakura Nouen Old Car Festival in Kirishima

2y ago

Here in Kirishima, it is quite inconvenient to get around without a car, but when I heard that there is a classic car event happening up in the mountains, I know that no matter what, I have to go. So despite how expensive taxis are here in Japan, I took a taxi up to the mountains, completely disregarding how I would get back to town, and boy was it worth the trouble.

The first car that greeted me at the festival was this first generation Mitsubishi Galant VR4. Based on the sixth generation Mitsubishi Galant, the VR4 was the biggest, baddest, and best Mitsubishi back in its day.

In order to meet homologation requirements of 5,000 units for the Group A rally stage, this was the only VR4 and one of the rare times the top of the line performance model of a Japanese car was sold in North America and Europe as is.

Producing 240bhp and 224 lb-ft of torque from a DOHC inline four, the Galant VR4 was a quick car back in 1987. It was also Mitsubishi's first high performance four wheel drive car (Previous Mitsubishi rally cars were rear wheel drive), and is also the world's first production car to feature semi-active suspension. What more is that this car also had four wheel steering, four wheel ABS as well as independent suspension, making it one of the most advanced cars on the market back in the day.

While this Galant was the first VR4, it was also the last frontline Mitsubishi rallycar. While it performed well, the world of rallying was moving towards smaller and more lightweight cars. This meant the Galant was then pushed aside with Mitsubishi focusing on the smaller Lancer.

Regardless of its sad fate, this generation VR4 is perhaps the best looking. While it was large at the time, it was smaller than its successor, making it less bulbous.

A wonderful car with wonderful history to start my day.

Next was this little Midget. The original Daihatsu Midget was one of Japan's first cars to get the people moving again after the war.

Introduced in 1957, the Midget produced an incredible 10bhp from a 250cc engine!

All in all, this is the cutest car at the show and is definitely a cult classic.

Finally I could cross this little beast off of my spotting bucket list. The Autozam AZ-1! Produced as a joint venture between Mazda and Suzuki, the AZ-1 was the wildest kei sports car to come out of Japan.

Originally developed by Suzuki as a mid engined kei roadster design project, the failure of the original prototype to meet regulations as well as in-house competition with the more favored Cappuccino design meant Suzuki had to abandon the idea.

Luckily for this badass dwarf, Mazda took over the project and by 1992, the AZ-1 was ready to hit the roads. Sold under Mazda's kei car brand, Autozam, as the AZ-1 and through Suzuki as the Suzuki Cara, the AZ-1 produced 67bhp from a midship 3 cylinder engine developed by Suzuki.

As a 90's kei sportscar, the AZ-1 competed with the Honda Beat, and strangely/ironically, the Suzuki Cappuccino. While the other two adopted a more conventional styling choice, the AZ-1's design is much more interesting.

It has gull wing doors! The signature design choice of the AZ-1 (and Cara), gull wing doors on such a small little car is just the coolest thing ever.

Despite the gull wing doors, the AZ-1 did not sell well due to its relatively high price compared to its competitors. In fact, it was only marginally cheaper than the Mazda Roadster making the AZ-1 quite a superfluous car in Mazda's lineup.

Due to lack of sales, Mazda decided to ax the whole project in 1995 with only 4,392 AZ-1 (531 Cara) produced, making it quite a rare car. It is also another reason to get your hands on one now while they are still relatively low in price.

Due to Mazda actually overproducing the AZ-1 for a market that did not want the car, Mazda decided to make a few special editions out of the unsold stock to try and get rid of them. One of which is the Mazdaspeed. This particular example features Mazdaspeed parts, but is unfortunately, not a Mazdaspeed. (All Mazdaspeed AZ-1 were painted in full red and blue)

Next we have one of the most beautiful Japanese cars and definitely the most beautiful Isuzu ever made, and for good reason. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiario, the Isuzu 117 Coupe was one of the first Italian designed Japanese cars and boy is it beautiful.

Produced from 1968 and 1981, the 117 was surprisingly long lived, which meant it was produced in quite large numbers, with 86,192 units produced. However, remaining examples remain rare and is quite collectible.

Along with being one of the first Japanese cars to feature an Italian design and a DOHC engine, it was also Japan's first fuel injected car making it quite futuristic at the time of its debut.

Not the biggest Isuzu fan out there, this was the first time I had seen or even heard of the 117 and boy did I get my fill of this wonderful car that day, because THERE'S MORE!

The owner of this one must be quite a fan of Spiderman. Rest in peace Stan Lee.

This Spiderman 117 is also an early 1960's model, giving me a good juxtaposition between the pre and post-facelifted models. Aside from the car as a whole, the emblem is also incredibly cool.

Not sure about the mythical creature it depicts, but it reminds me of the Chinese mythical character called the Pei Yau.

Always love me an old Toyota Crown. Basically a Japanese E class, the Toyota Crown Royal Saloon was Toyota's second best in the name of luxury after the Century.

Although it was produced in large numbers, Japanese taxes mean that many people would rather abandon these beauties rather than keep them running on the road, making these old Crowns quite rare nowadays.

Next we have a second generation Toyota Soarer GT Twin Turbo. Now this is an underrated beast.

To put it into layman's terms, this Soarer was basically a fixed headlight version of the A70 Supra. It is also the better looking car between the two and the best looking Soarer in my opinion.

Although it did not feature the 1JZ engine featured in later A70 Supra models, the Soarer was not a slow car, producing 240bhp from its turbocharged inline 6.

Next to the second generation Soarer was this first generation Soarer.

As with its successor, the first generation Soarer was based off of the A60 Celica XX, better known as the A60 Celica Supra. The Soarer was loaded with luxuries including one of the first touch screen air conditioning controls rather than dials and numerous other electronic luxuries.

Producing around 170bhp from a 2.8L inline 6, the Soarer was not just a luxury GT car, it was also fast. And boy is that emblem sexy.

Now we come to a fourth generation Nissan Cedric 330. The brother to the Gloria, the Cedric was Nissan's mid range luxury saloon to compete with the Crown.

These cars were quite popular back during its original run and was used from anywhere between taxis and gangster cars.

This driver was even awarded the Best Driver of Miyazaki Prefecture Award, whatever that entails.

That is it for part one! There are many many cars at this show and it would be quite a novel if I put everything in one post. So, take these as my tribute for now.

Which one was your favorite? Comment your thoughts down below, and as always, thank you for reading!

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